Since the TNA is not a part of the Government, the Government might collapse anytime
Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella was frank when he said on Wednesday that they were going to form a National Government under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in order to increase the number of Ministers of the Cabinet from 30 to 48.
In a way, he had been compelled to tell the truth finally to the country after attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the people with regard to the purpose of the National Government, which the Government was attempting to form.
Earlier leaders of the Government were claiming that the Government wanted to form a National Government with Parliament members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) with a view to having a stable Government. It was not clear whether there were SLFP members of Parliament who at the time were willing to join the Government.
However, the whole country knew that the move to form a National Government was a ploy to increase the number of Ministers and the interesting part of the scenario was that the Government members also knew that everybody knew what their intention was.
Yet, they continued to pretend that they were unaware that people were aware of their intention and kept on talking about stabilizing of the Government.
Attempting to do what people do not like, while pretending not to know that others know your intention is the best kind of shamelessness. Nevertheless, the best way to do what others do not like is also pretending not to know that others know your intention.
However, the Government later realized that their pretention is of no use and thus Minister Kiriella shifted his tone and admitted that they were to form a National Government in order to puff up the size of the Cabinet.
Kiriella handed over a motion to the Secretary-General of Parliament last Friday to form a National Government with 48 Cabinet Ministers.
The motion was required under the 19th Amendment an Article of which says that Parliament will decide the number of Ministers under a National Government. Later, the leaders of the Government argued that they had formed a National Government with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which has only one member in Parliament and a motion was presented in the House to increase the number of Ministers to 48.
It is a well-known fact that the Government is not as stable as it was before October 26 last year as the members of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) withdrew from the United National Front (UNF) led National Government on that day.
After the Constitutional coup launched by President Maithripala Sirisena was defeated, the UNF-led Government was reinstituted on December 16, but as a minority Government with the outside support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Since the TNA is not a part of the Government, the Government might collapse anytime.
Therefore, attempts by the leaders of the UNF to form a coalition Government with the help of members of other parties are logical. Yet, here what the Government was attempting to do was just to declare a National Government formed in association with a single member of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), who is already in the Government.
That coalition does not provide any strength or stability to the Government afresh, but only clears the way for the Government to increase the number of Ministers.
It is not clear whether forming a National Government by the UNF with Batticaloa District MP Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, the only SLMC MP is legally valid.
There are another six SLMC members including the party leader Rauff Hakeem, who had been returned to Parliament as members of the UNP/UNF and not considered in the House as those of the SLMC.
However, Mr Hakeem can decide the fate of the Parliament membership of Moulana any time. Then, can Moulana be considered as a member of a separate party?
There is another issue in term of ethics as well. The Government plans to form the National Government coalescing with a single member party with the intention of increasing the number of Ministers by 18. (from 30 to 48). Isn’t it outrageous?
Limiting the number of Cabinet Ministers to 30 was a major promise by the UNF during the last Presidential and Parliament Elections.
Nevertheless, the UNF Government instituted by President Sirisena upon his assumption of office in January 2015 hoodwinked the country in this regard by intruding a concept of National Government to the Constitution.
An Article had been introduced to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted in April 2015 providing for a 30 Member Cabinet. But another Article that made provision for a National Government with any number of Ministers, as approved by Parliament, followed it.
The National Government has been defined by the 19th Amendment as a Government formed by the political party that has obtained the highest number of seats in Parliament with other parties.
It is an obvious fact that one or the other party would obtain the highest number of seats in Parliament after any General Election.
And that means any party can get the support of smaller parties to form the so-called National Government and increase the number of Ministers. This negates the very purpose of the previous Article of the Constitution.And it is also an obvious fact that any future Government would be a National Government which would have more than 30 Ministers.
There might be rare cases where the National Government thus formed would not be able to pass a resolution in Parliament to inflate the Cabinet beyond the 30 member limit due to lack of an absolute majority in Parliament.
The current goverment is also in such a predicament There must be a nationally important reason for the political parties to form a National Government.If in fact there is such a reason the parties joining the main party to form a National Government should not expect portfolios.If the main party is so magnanimous, it can share the 30 portfolios with other parties that come forward to form the Coalition Government.If a smaller party would not join the main party without portfolios in return, that is nothing but a bribe at the expense of the taxpayers.Here the very Constitution, presuming (In fact knowing well) that no party would join another party to form a Government without such a bribe, has legitimized that bribe.
“Kiriella handed over a motion to the Secretary-General of Parliament last Friday to form a National Government with 48 Cabinet Ministers”
An ironic situation has now arisen in the country with respect to the appointing of a large number of Ministers. On the one hand, the UNF led Government without having the moral right to increase the number of ministers in the light of its promise to the people in 2015 is trying to do so.
On the other, the two factions of the UPFA led by President Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa do not have the moral right to criticize the Government now for puffing up Ministerial Portfolios after having a jumbo Cabinet, with more than 60 Ministers during their Government, before 2015.
Everyone must be reminded that some of those now with the former President had crossed over to the UNP protesting against the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government’s move to limit the Cabinet to 20, under the Parivasa Aandu agreement with the JVP, in 2001.
Yet, it is also ironic that the unethical move by the current Government could be stopped only with that immoral opposition by the UPFA.
The whole world knows that there is no need for a large Cabinet and the Government is hell-bent in increasing the portfolios just to satisfy its MPs by providing them with an opportunity to plunder the public coffers by way of perks and privileges.
There had been Cabinets in the past with less than 20 Ministers. According to a story published on August 20, 1961, in the now-defunct Rividina, a Sinhala weekly which had a high circulation then, the Cabinet consisted of only 12 Ministers.
Some might argue that the population has increased several fold since 1961 justifying the larger Cabinets of Ministers since the eighties.But the population has nothing to do with the number of Ministers. It is the subjects that have to be handled that matter, when it comes to the size of the Cabinet.